Imagine being known for your deeds, but then history doesn't call you by name. Identified only as Jack the Ripper, he was the serial killer in 19th century England who brutally mutilated and murdered five women. Without fanfare or apparent reason, Street artist Zabou resurrected Britain’s bad dream with a mural painted on an outside wall near the crime scene showing "Jack” dripping in blood. This didn't go over well.

A clear case of righteous indignation

Residents were so horrified that one of them, Tim Elliot was driven to shout out the outrage by whitewashing Zabou’s painting. As he told The Guardian, the image looked to be some sort of joke.

He asked the artist if she knew how sensitive the subject was to those who lived in the neighborhood where the crimes were committed. And he said she didn't.

I didn’t see that coming, did you?

And therein lies the surprise in the story. The artist who solemnized the man who bestialized women is a woman - Isabel Breitman. But wait, she has some excuse, if you consider the site of her work. The mural is surrounded by small businesses with names that seem to play the killer for laughs: a barbershop called Jack the Clipper and a fish and chips place called Jack the Chipper. Neighborhood outrage over the Jack the Ripper image seems in and of itself outrageous. I rush to add that perpetuating the dastardly deeds of a homicidal maniac in a graphic display may be more off-putting than storefront signage.

Talk of the town and it's not happy talk

When The Guardian asked Zabou what made her do it, she spoke of trying to be creative with the wall space and also trying to engage the viewer. But France 24 News (Fr24news) didn’t see her work the way she did, describing it, instead, as a crazed figure with blood on his hands.

In her defense, Zabou told The Guardian it wasn’t’ her intention to gross people out or to glorify Jack the Ripper. That said, she made an argument that there shouldn't be a wrong subject in street art and that it's not a good idea for artists to self-censor themselves.

Good sport despite the brickbats

Her defensive stands aside, Zabou took the whitewashing of her mural in stride saying that street art is not meant to be lasting, that it constantly changes with the times. "I love that idea," she added. But clearly not loving the idea of commemorating Jack the Ripper is Hallie Rubenhold, author of a Book about the murdered women titled The Five. She told The Guardian that Zabou’s mural paid homage to someone who “literally ripped women apart." Instead, she'd like to see a mural commemorating the five women, and – get this - on the same wall that was whitewashed, and – get this, too - with Zabou as the artist. “Now wouldn’t that be brilliant?” she asked. Well, blameless anyway.

Again, I question all the moral outrage when Zabou’s mural points to the same subject that neighboring businesses joke about by naming their establishments with takeoffs of the Jack the Ripper moniker.

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